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What You Need to Know Before Visiting the USA

Traveling to the USA can be an adventure of a lifetime, but before you hit the road, there are a few things you should keep in mind. From entry requirements to tipping etiquette, we've got you covered.



Language


The USA actually has no official language, but English is spoken throughout the country. However, there are some areas, particularly those located near the Mexican border, where Spanish is also a widely spoken language. In these towns, a combination of both English and Spanish can be heard.



Currency


The currency in the USA is the United States Dollar (commonly abbreviated to $ or USD). You can check up-to-date currency conversions here.



Visas


The United States has some of the strictest border controls in the world. While a select few countries may enter without a visa, many other countries must apply for an ESTA (visa waiver) or a tourism visa in order to gain entry. Depending on the purpose of the visit, the length of stay, and other entry requirements, different types of visas may be available. To make sure you are aware of all the necessary entry requirements for your country, it is important to check the US government travel website here. This website offers a comprehensive overview of the visa requirements and processes, so you can make sure you have all the necessary information before you travel.



Health Insurance


The cost of medical care in the USA is exceptionally high and can cost hundreds of dollars just for a standard doctor's visit. Because of this, travel insurance for the USA is generally more expensive, but it is vital for those times when your trip doesn't go according to plan. Many places will also require you to show either proof of insurance or that you can pay for the costs upfront before they provide treatment.


For the ultimate peace of mind when traveling abroad, we swear by Safety Wing. Their comprehensive coverage and affordable plans are unbeatable!



Safety


The USA is considered a generally safe place to travel, even for solo travelers. Like anywhere else, stay aware of your surroundings and don't leave valuables unattended. Crime is more likely to occur in bigger cities, so ensure you know which areas are best to avoid during your visit. Any time you take public transport, stay alert so you don't fall victim to petty theft.


When out in nature, it is important to remember that wildlife, such as bears, mountain lions, moose, and bison, can be found in many areas. Even animals that appear to be docile can become dangerous if they feel threatened. That is why it is important to keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter while hiking or exploring wilderness areas. Doing so can help to ensure that you stay safe and avoid any potential injuries these animals may be capable of inflicting.


Overall, the USA is a wonderful place to explore and as long as you take the proper precautions, you should have a safe and enjoyable visit.


The emergency phone number in the USA is 911.



Tipping


Tipping is a big part of American culture and is especially important in the service industry. Bartenders and servers often make a majority of their income from tips, so showing your appreciation with a generous tip is always appreciated. A standard tip in the US is around 15% of the total bill (pre-tax) for adequate service, but many people like to pay more for truly exceptional service.



Sales Tax


In the USA, it is important to remember that when you purchase items from a store, such as a grocery store or retail outlet, the prices listed do not include tax. The sales tax is added to your purchase at the checkout, which can be a surprise for many tourists who are not aware of this fact. This means that they can often end up spending more than they originally planned. It is important to take this into account when budgeting for your purchases so that you do not get caught off guard and end up spending more than you are comfortable with.



Card or Cash


While most places will accept either cash or debit/credit cards, there are some smaller shops that will only accept cash.


Cashless events and festivals are becoming increasingly popular. However, it is always good to double-check the payment methods accepted at the event before you attend, as you don't want to find yourself in a position where you are unable to pay for your items.


ATMs are widely available and easy to find, but they may have a transaction fee or a conversion fee. Make sure to always decline the conversion offered by an ATM as they are usually much worse than the one offered by your bank.


Credit cards are usually required for reservations, such as for hotels, restaurants, and car rentals, so be sure to have one on hand if you are making any such arrangements.



Tap Water


Tap water is generally safe to drink in the United States. However, there are a few parts of the USA where tap water is not safe to drink due to local contamination. In touristy areas, water contamination should not be an issue, but if you are heading to smaller towns or rural areas, check the water quality in the area before drinking it just to be safe.



Plug Types


The United States uses both A and B plug types. When purchasing an adapter, it is recommended to get a universal adapter or an A plug type, as it can be used in all locations within the United States.



Traveling to the USA can be a great experience, but it's important to make sure you have all the necessary information before you go. With these snippets of info in mind, you'll be ready for your trip to the USA!

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